Sign In  |  Register  |  About Burlingame  |  Contact Us

Burlingame, CA
September 01, 2020 10:18am
7-Day Forecast | Traffic
  • Search Hotels in Burlingame

  • ROOMS:

Alaska Airlines passenger recounts harrowing moments off-duty pilot allegedly tried to cut plane's engines

Off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson is to be arraigned on 83 attempted murder counts after flight's emergency diversion to Portland.

A passenger on board an Alaska Airlines flight where an off-duty pilot allegedly tried to disable the engines mid-flight, revealed the chilling moments after the man who prompted the security threat was subdued before an emergency landing

Bailey Beck, who was aboard the flight home to San Francisco, told SFGate he knew of the emergency situation earlier than other passengers because he paid for in-flight Wi-Fi.

"My sister has her pilot’s license and is in aviation school to become a commercial pilot. After I texted that the plane was landing, she went on Flightradar and was able to relay updates on the communication between the pilot and air traffic control while we were still in flight," Beck told the outlet.

"It was really bizarre because there was no overheard commotion to alert the passengers. The man walked from the cockpit to the back of the plane by himself, where he was then handcuffed to a railing and didn’t make any disturbance from the rear," Beck said. "The flight attendants said a passenger had a mental breakdown, so it was like he tried to shut off the engines and then surrendered willingly after being thwarted."


Joseph David Emerson, 44, was booked shortly after 4 a.m. Monday on 167 counts, including 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. He is expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.

Air traffic control audio provided a glimpse into how crew members managed to get the suspect out of their plane's cockpit after he allegedly tried to disable the engines mid-flight, forcing the aircraft bound for San Francisco to divert to Portland.

Emerson was riding in the jumper seat behind the captain and first officer on an Alaska Airlines flight, as per custom for airlines to allow employees to taxi free rides back to their home bases to get them in position without booting passengers off flights. While in the cockpit, Emerson allegedly caused a disturbance and tried to disable the Embraer 175 jet’s engines while at cruise altitude by deploying the engine fire suppression system, according to authorities. 

"Just to give you a heads up, we've got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit, and it doesn't sound like he's causing any issue in the back right now, and I think he's subdued," a Horizon Air pilot is heard telling air traffic controllers at Portland International Airport over radio transmission Sunday upon making what was deemed an "emergency diversion." 

"Other than that we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked."

Upon hearing the news, Emerson’s neighbors on the close-knit residential street in Pleasant Hill, California, were shocked, according to the Daily Mail. They described the man as a "lovely and fantastic" playful dad and husband with no known issues, according to the outlet. Emerson reportedly lives in the city – located about 30 miles east of San Francisco – with his wife, Sarah Stretch, and two young sons.

According to the Daily Mail, Emerson’s $1.2 million, four-bedroom home had signs at the doorstep reading, "Free Flying Lessons. Inquire Inside" and "Trick or Treat," as the neighborhood readies for Halloween.

Passengers were told that the now-suspect might have had a "mental breakdown" mid-flight, the Mail reported.

Emerson is to be arraigned at 2:05 p.m. Tuesday in Portland, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office told Fox News Digital, adding that information about whether Emerson has a lawyer was not yet available. 

Alaska Airlines Flight 2059, operated by Horizon Air, a regional carrier, had taken off from Everett, Washington, at 5:23 p.m. local time Sunday bound for San Francisco. 


The flight soon "reported a credible security threat," according to Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon Air. 

The airline did not name Emerson but said an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot traveling in the flight deck jump seat "unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines" and praised how the Horizon captain and first officer "quickly responded, engine power was not lost, and the crew secured the aircraft without incident. " 

The Port of Portland Police Department also confirmed the flight crew was able to detain the subject and the flight landed safely at Portland International Airport just before 6:30 p.m. 

"I am grateful for the professional flight crew and air traffic controllers who stepped up to guide this plane safely to Portland," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote on X, formerly Twitter, Monday. "FAA supports law enforcement in their response and will be focused on any safety considerations for the future that emerge from investigations."

Port of Portland Police said officers met the flight and apprehended the suspect "without incident." The police department said they are closely working with the FBI, TSA, FAA and Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. 

"The subject was lodged at the Multnomah County Detention Center on multiple charges and the investigation is ongoing. All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight," police said.


The FBI Portland Field Office confirmed Monday it is investigating but also assured "the traveling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident" and the suspect is under arrest on state charges in Oregon. 

Fox News' Daniela Genovese contributed to this report.

Data & News supplied by
Stock quotes supplied by Barchart
Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes.
By accessing this page, you agree to the following
Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.
Copyright © 2010-2020 & California Media Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.